If Cartier’s Tank and Panthère watches are the main draws when it comes to timepieces, the Baignoire is a rebellious side act. It’s not classic enough to reach the wrists of the royal family – Princess Diana wore a boxy, military-inspired tank, while Kate, the new Princess of Wales, lives in a sportier Ballon Bleu – the quirky Baignoire, affectionately named after the shape of the bathtub, is the signature. A French favourite. Among his fans? Gallic doyennes Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider and Jeanne Moreau.
As fashion moves towards timeless pieces, Baignoire is enjoying a new wave of support from individuals who want caché Cartier, sans the predictability of, say, the Panthère. Enter Tyler, the Creator — famed auctioneer of rare Cartier chronometers like the psychedelic Crash and the old-school Petit Cylindre — and now his pal Kendall Jenner, who’s been spotted with a Baignoir peeking out from the sleeve of her Bates. Rave Flag Cafe weekend racing jacket. Juxtaposed against her other luxe wardrobe staples—including The Row shoes, an Olsen-made bag, and Khaite’s Danielle jeans—the slim watch looked cheerful, interesting, and expensive in keeping with the piece’s history.
Louis Cartier, the grandson of Louis-François Cartier, born in 1912, when it was somewhat revolutionary to shake up watchmaking traditions, invented a remarkable watch with an oval face and a horizontally rotating dial, which he presented to a high-end Russian client, Grand. Duchess Pavlovna. It wasn’t until 1957 that the Baignoire – French for those decadent tub shapes of the era – was introduced as Cartier’s new signature in many metals and sizes – some with 70 diamonds studded around the band.
Fast forward to the 1970s and the jeweler stretched the design even further for the novel Baignoire Allongée in keeping with the swinging style of the decade. His long and winding journey then culminated in the rumor that according to FashionRachel Garrahan, “Crash Cartier, a surrealist masterpiece and perhaps the most coveted of all Cartier watch designs (Jay-Z wears one and a 1967 model sold at Sotheby’s last year for a record $1.5 million) was actually , originally inspired by client Baignoire Allongée, which was crushed in a car accident.” We’ll leave that to the horologiophiles to debate.
As curious as this witty accessory is, this elegant piece shows how Cartier can adapt and gain new followers like Kendall, who is trying to make her own way in the crowd of It-girls riding trends like there’s no tomorrow. With its playful history (watch fanatics are currently obsessed with the 1960s and 1970s), the Baignoire is an instant conversation starter – something worth its weight in gold in an industry that benefits from a herd instinct to buy heroic pieces. Jenner’s French girl shows it’s time to change things up.